Abstract painting

“Find your creative outlet and plug into it. Otherwise, you may just short-circuit.” Giuseppe Bianco

We all need a creative outlet. Maybe it’s to escape our day jobs, to live out a passion, to express ourselves, or to help us get through a major life event. Or maybe it’s a combination of them.

My outlet has always been painting. Specifically, estate portraits. But recently I’ve been experimenting with abstract painting and I am absolutely loving it.

Painting isn’t a weekly or even monthly hobby for me; it’s something I do when the inspiration and motivation strikes. I’ll lose my desire to do it if it becomes a responsibility or a chore. But I recently went through a pretty big life change and my feelings were just begging to be poured out on canvas.

I knew I wanted to create a large abstract piece to go above my bed – it’s something I’ve been contemplating for a while. Lately I’ve been following some artists on Instagram who make great use of vibrant color (links to their profiles and websites at the bottom), and as this artistic urge grew I knew that that color was the kind of expression I needed.

So I set paintbrush (and palette knife and paper towel and water and fingers) to canvas. Over the course of a week I created something in a style that I had never done successfully before. Something that is deeply meaningful to me and that I love.

The colors reflect sorrow, brightness, optimism, movement, and all the things that I’ve been feeling the last few weeks.

I call it “What’s Next” because when I think about the future, what I see is radiant color. This painting is a reflection of how I’ve been feeling and a projection of the possibility of what’s to come. I hope that whenever I lose my sense of optimism, I can look at this and be reminded of the beauty of the unknown.

I spent some extra time documenting the painting in its various stages so I could share the process with all of you. I cannot claim to have any kind of technique, I just did whatever felt good and balanced. That’s the beauty of abstract painting – it can be whatever you want it to be, and you don’t have to be formally trained to do it (though I have been painting on the side for years).

Tell me in the comments: what is your creative outlet or escape?

The Process, Deconstructed

First, I wanted to have layers of soft color in the background. To do that, I wet the canvas and added a lot of water to my paint. I spread it first with a brush in haphazard strokes, then created some texture and lines with a palette knife, and lastly smoothed it over with a paper towel.

Abstract painting early stages

Should I stop there?

Second, I began adding color. I wanted it to reflect the whole rainbow, but to have a warm feeling overall. I settled on pinks, oranges and golds as my primary colors with pops of blues and purples and greens to balance it (so, yes, the entire rainbow).

Abstract painting

It looks like a strange bird flying toward a flower…or something

After that I began to try to layer in dimension. Put unexpected colors on top of one another, create lines, add movement. Honestly, this was the most unplanned part of the entire piece. I just put colors where I thought they might look good, and experimented with layers and different techniques. I painted over whatever didn’t go well.

Like this.

Abstract painting

This keeps getting uglier.

Abstract painting

Wow, this really looks like shit.

Abstract painting

That’s a little better.

At this point I knew it needed something badly, but I couldn’t put my finger on what. It was so bland like this, just a mishmash of colors.

Finally I decided to add a little color around the edges. Specifically, yellow.

Abstract painting

Now we’re getting somewhere.

It made all the difference. The layers of blue didn’t hurt either.

Next, I layered in the light pink and the white on top of the blue. I also added some green to the upper right. Again, no real rhyme or reason, just what felt right at the time.

Abstract painting

Yes! This is what I had in mind. Keep pushing through!

And the next thing I knew, after adding some pops metallic gold, it was done. Truthfully, though, I don’t know if this piece will ever be finished. I’ll probably keep tinkering with it until I encase it forever in a layer of shiny resin. But despite its flaws and what I see it lacking, I am so happy with it because it has personality and brightness and movement and color. It’s unique and it’s exactly what I set out to create. There’s probably a metaphor for life in there somewhere, but I’ll let you interpret it yourself.


Artists who inspire me that you should check out/follow: